As global demand for food increases and impacts of climate-related extremes become more severe new governance mechanisms have become relevant. Individual and collective efforts by actors in water-for food governance could all contribute to sustainably managing the locally scarce water resources that are mobilized to meet the world's demand for food. This review synthesises insights from agricultural water management, water resources management and socio-hydrology to contribute to a knowledge base for informing joint efforts by networks of actors teaming up for sustainable water-for-food governance. The interpretation of water-for-food indicator values is complicated by spatiotemporal variations, different interests and perspectives. However, incorporating these complexities is crucial for governing a globalized food system that depends on water resources of which the availability varies in space and time.